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House of M #2

Posted: Monday, June 27, 2005
By: Shawn Hill



Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Tim Townsend (i)

Publisher: Marvel

Plot:
A series of vignettes, showing us a changed world.

Comments:
This is a step up from the first issue. Merely by avoiding mention of Scarlet Witch, a character that is a hopeless match for Bendisí strengths as a writer, the story moves forward on much less shaky ground. Our heroes have gone through her looking glass, and on the other side they find themselves in paradise. Whether itís just an illusion will probably have to be decided on a case-by-case basis (thatís where the drama lies in these sorts of wish-fulfillment tales), and it will probably be Wolverine who wakes to the wrongness first.

But the changes are comprehensive and all-encompassing and quite pointed. Merely as a demonstration of Wandaís newfound quasi-omnipotence (whether it is she, or Mephisto, or Magneto who is driving the reality revisions), itís impressive. Itís a bit like Age of Apocalypse (sentinels now work for the mutants, the mutants are in charge), and a bit like some very tragic dreams come true. Wisely, Bendis focuses not on plot mechanics or emotional histrionics this issue, but on portrait vignettes of our new characters, letting us know how they feel through conversation (his particular gift).

Colossus is still in Russia, never pulled from his patriotic loyalty by the internationalist Xavier (who seems missing altogether). Ms. Marvel, despite not being a mutant, is a national hero. Wonder Man and Dazzler are popular TV personalities. Hank, having never gone blue, is a scientist for Tony Stark, as is Henry Pym (still as obstinately self-destructive in this reality for some reason). Storm is the Mutant Queen of Africa, nervous over an event that will feature the House of Magneto (world leaders, obviously), while Jan is her dressmaker.

Most stunningly of all, Emma and Scott are happily married parents with jobs. What could be scarier than a happy, contented and hard-working Emma, sharing her thoughts and worries with Scott with no defense mechanisms in sight?

Less interesting:
Itís not perfect after all. The Jan and Storm scene is distressingly shallow (Stormís worried about how her powers might damage her dress), played for incongruent comic relief by Coipel. Bendis, who missed the point that Wanda looks evil but isnít, has also missed the point that Janís frivolous style masks a stern and solid core that never steers her wrong in a fight or a command decision.

Wolverine, waking up in Mystiqueís bed on some version of a S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier, is already nonplussed by the situation, which doesnít say much for its permanence. Luke Cage is apparently the new Kingpin in Hellís Kitchen, while Falcon is contemplating bringing him down (which keeps all of our men of color in one violent ghetto). The Sentry apparently has the same demons in every reality.

Confusing:
And with something approaching consistency, the political issues at the core of this story continue to be tweaked, this time (finally) in overt dialogue. Making Wanda ultimate evil goes against the arc of her career and the purpose of the Marvel mutant metaphor (that powerful, exceptional people are often misunderstood and treated badly by mob behaviour, whereas with acceptance and the light of reason they could contribute greatly to the society that fears them). Wandaís story now seems to be saying humans were right to be scared all along.

And this issue, in this topsy-turvy world where mutants rule and humans, while not hunted or policed or chained, are a dwindling minority, the Beast gives us a patronizing, chilling lesson in how unconcerned the dominant class can be for the problems of the minority group. Itís an odd reversal, both more subtle than other stories that just posit nightmarish mutant despots, and more inflammatory. To assert that attempts to isolate the mutant gene are ďreverse racismĒ is something like the height of irony. I hope.



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